Although a decade in the making, the highly anticipated Tom Keifer solo album The Way Life Goes was released in April to much acclaim from fans and critics alike. After the passages of time and litigation, the esteemed Cinderella front man was back in action, and the results were nothing short of electrifying! A thoroughly gripping collection of rock songs showing an artist at the height of his creative prowess, to his many longtime fans, Keifer’s debut solo endeavor was well worth the wait! In this interview, Highwire Daze Online discusses with Tom Keifer the inspiration behind his new songs, working with his wife Savannah Snow as a songwriting partner, appearing on the David Letterman Show, the future of Cinderella, and other timely topics. And now, presenting the one and only Tom Keifer…
Is there any story or concept behind the CD title The Way Life Goes?
“Life” is where it’s been as my inspiration to write songs ever since I started writing songs. I’m influenced by my heroes – musicians, artists, songwriters, singers – all people who were heavily influenced by American roots music – like blues and country and gospel. Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin and The Rolling Stones – it was just the stuff I grew up on. It’s where I learned about music and songs – it’s the place I’ve always written from – and that’s kind of the back story to where I come from. So fast forward to this record – the songs were written from the same place that I’ve always written from. And when we were getting the album credits and the lyrics together for the label back in the Fall – and my wife Savannah Snow – who was heavily involved in the record with writing and production – we’re kind of like proofreading the lyrics. We were reading them all in print – and it dawned on us how many life experiences were in the lyrics – and the title track The Way Life Goes just felt right. We had been trying to think of a name for the record for forever, and that just felt appropriate after digesting all the lyrics as we were proofreading.
What was the experience like writing songs with your wife and is this the first you’ve ever collaborated as a songwriting team?
We’ve been writing together off and on for a long time – and working together on musical things. She was actually in Nashville before me, and wrote a lot of stuff down on Music Row here for a publishing company that she worked for. She had an artist deal there too – she’s an artist and singer in her own right. So we’ve worked on a lot of things off and on over the years. So we were pretty comfortable working together anyway – and then when it came into this project, it was a pretty natural thing, because she really writes from the same place I do that I just described. It’s from life – it’s real. So when you’re coming from the same place, it makes it easy.
At this point, what made you decide to do a solo record as opposed to another Cinderella album?
This was done in the aftermath of a Cinderella record deal that went incredibly wrong. We had signed a deal back in the late 90s and worked very hard preparing for it and writing. And something just went South, and the deal ended up not being what the deal was – and it ended up in courts and a whole bunch of legal stuff. It got very ugly and we were actually restricted from recording for a while due to the legal settlement. And in the aftermath of that is when I decided to start recording my record, which was in 2003. Being that I’d just come out of an ugly situation with a record label – that’s why I made the decision to produce the record independent from a label and kind of work on it on my own. So it was the way I wanted it and that’s how it started. I didn’t think it was going to take me ten years to make the record – but I guess that’s the negative of not having a company breathing down your neck. But the positive of it was that I had the luxury of time to really take long breaks and be objective and really get it the way I wanted it.
What was it like doing your very first solo show and were you nervous at all?
Yeah, I was a little bit nervous, but not too bad. I knew it was going to be a big undertaking to put together a band for my solo thing. There’s a lot of complexities and subtleties to the new record, that pulling it off live you need a good band for it – and well as with in the old stuff too – and I’m doing both live. I found a great bunch that I just absolutely love and they’re very committed to it all. We got to rehearse – we had a pretty long pre-production leading into the first show so we were all pretty comfortable. But yeah, I was a little nervous when I first walked onstage. It took a few songs to start feeling as it should.
Do you still enjoy performing the Cinderella songs after all this time?
Yeah, I do. It never gets old. I’ve been so fortunate. I’m grateful for the fans that we’ve had going all the way back to when Cinderella first started. They make the songs feel like it’s the first time every time you walk out on the stage. The energy between the band and the audience –it makes it new every night. And that’s carried into the solo thing when I do the Cinderella songs. There’s just a great energy on the air.
When you look back on the final Cinderella album Still Climbing, what do you think of it now?
I like most of it. If you want me to be critical about it, I like the songs. I’m not sure we got the mixing 100 percent right on it, but it’s a really cool record. Some of the songs I really love – I love Through The Rain, Hard To Find The Words, Freewheelin, and Bad Attitude Shuffle. Most of it I really like – but you have that with every record.
Do you think there will ever be another Cinderella studio album?
We will see. I don’t know.
How did your shows with Halestorm go?
Awesome! Really, really great! We did two with them – Atlantic City House Of Blues and The York County Fair in Pennsylvania – and it was just a blast! The bands got along really well. They’re a great band. I liked their material before we even went to do the shows. I really love Lzzy’s voice – I always like a screamer and she’s got some serious pipes! We actually got to sing together on both those shows. We did a duet of Nobody’s Fool which was a blast! It was fun to sing with her and play with Halestorm. We went up during their show and did it. So yeah, it was really great. And with the audience – I think there’s a lot of common fans and I think there seemed to be a buzz – like the audience seemed to really like that two generations of music coming together, so it was all good. It was a good time.
What was it like appearing on David Letterman and is he cool in person?
Let me start with your first question. That’s the first time that I’d ever done late night TV. All the years, even with Cinderella, I’d never done a live TV show quite like that. I was fucking nervous! It was like, wow, okay, here we go! But the whole crew and staff there were just so cool to us. We did a bunch of run-throughs in the afternoon and I felt very comfortable by the time we walked out to actually do the show. I didn’t get to meet Dave until the moment where he walks over at the end of the show and shook my hand a couple of times – we exchanged a few words there and that was it. He was super cool – a very nice guy – it was cool to meet him and shake his hand, because I’ve been a fan for years. I like his show!
It took ten years for your first solo album to come out. Do you think we’ll have to wait another ten years for a second Tom Keifer solo album?
I hope not! (Laughs) I don’t think I have that in me! We’ll see. I’m not even thinking about it right now, because we spent so much time doing this one. It was just released in April, so we’re still very early in the project, and we’re planning on getting back out on the road towards the end of this year – and touring and working this record all through next year. That’s the last thought on my mind right now – but I would like to think that when we do, that it won’t take ten years.
Do you have any messages for long time Tom Keifer / Cinderella fans?
Thank you! That’s my message! I feel very fortunate to have had the experience that I’ve had starting with Cinderella – and I am well aware – and it’s carried through even into this solo project for years – I am very aware that we make the music for the fans – and they’re the ones who keep it alive – and I never forget that. So thank you!
(Interview by Ken Morton)